The last time Max Fried threw at least five innings was June 17, when the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits battered him for six earned runs as he took the loss for the Mississippi Braves in front of 3,324 fans.
Sunday, Sept. 3, the 23-year-old Jewish rookie left-hander took the mound for his first career start for the Atlanta Braves amid 42,145 fans at Chicago’s venerable Wrigley Field.
All Fried did was limit the world champion Chicago Cubs to one run on four hits over five innings, needing only 63 pitches to earn his first career win in a 5-1 Braves victory.
Fried was called up from Double-A on Aug. 5, made four relief appearances for the Braves, then was sent down to Gwinnett for a pair of starts before the major-league rosters expanded Sept. 1. Although he wears No. 61 for the Braves, he started wearing No. 32 in high school in tribute to another Jewish left-handed pitcher, Sandy Koufax.
He couldn’t have looked cooler against the Cubs, generally throwing his fastball around 90 mph but cranking it up into the mid-90s when needed. He retired Chicago in order in the first inning, then used his out pitch, his curve, to strike out Anthony Rizzo to start the second inning. It was one of three strikeouts on the curve.
“That thing just keeps breaking. I know that’s hard to get a hold of because it has a lot of break and it keeps breaking,” Braves Manager Brian Snitker said about Fried’s curve.
Fried induced four comebackers and generally kept the ball out of the air — except when he threw a fastball down the middle in the second inning, and Ian Happ crushed it for a home run.
It was Fried’s only real mistake, but it came immediately after he picked Javier Baez off first base to limit the damage.
He got into trouble of his own making in his final inning — costing the Braves a double play with an errant throw to second, walking a batter on four pitches and deflecting a groundball away from shortstop Dansby Swanson on what should have been the third out. But with the bases loaded, he got another routine grounder to first to end the inning and his day.